Last updated on June 13th, 2023
Featured image: A woman preparing for to take off for travel again / Photo by Eduard Goricev
Our Top Tips to Get Ready for Travel
Curated by Carolyn Ray, Publisher
This month we have an overabundance of travel tips for women from reads around the world, culled from our Once-in-a-Lifetime Q&A sessions, book club, phone conversations, community calls, emails and editorial. We rely on tips from you — our community — if you have one to share please do so!
1. Packing for the Train, not the Plane: Once you’ve downsized all your possessions and are ready to travel full-time, how do you do it? Kate lives nomadically and has everything she needs in a cross-body bag, a rolling backpack and a backpack. This leaves her hands free. “I pack for the train, not the plane,” she says. “I’ve broken both my wrists previously, so I am aware of the risks of falling and stairs. I want a free hand to lift myself up.” Read more of Kate’s tips on clothing, eating utensils and laundry on the road (including inflatable hangers) here.
2. Looking for Travel Documentaries? After our Community Call on June 4, Margaret B shared an extensive list of what she’s watching to stay inspired until borders open in Australia. I’ve been watching all of them, including documentaries such as Joanna Lumley’s Northern Lights, Pole to Pole with Michael Palin and Monty Don’s Paradise Gardens. I’m partial to Ewan McGregor in his Long Way Up series, where he makes an eco-friendly trip on e-motorcyles from Argentina to California. We’ll publish her full list soon.
3. Learning About Indigenous Culture: A great place to start is with the University of Alberta’s free open course on Indigenous History, suggested by several women on our private Facebook group (with thanks to Marilyn K for the initial recommendation), regardless of country of residence.
To find an Indigenous Tour or Experience in Canada, visit Destination Indigenous, which launched on June 21.
4. It’s the 100th Anniversary of the Bluenose: Carolyn attended an event hosted by Tourism Nova Scotia hosted an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the launch of the iconic Bluenose Schooner. The Bluenose II is a faithful replica of her famous mother, who was called the “Queen of the North Atlantic.” From June 1 to September 30, she sails out of her home port and birthplace, Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The original Bluenose launched in 1921 and raced undefeated in international competition for 17 years.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Bluenose, you can read Captain Phil’s log at bluenose100.ca. And when Nova Scotia opens up to tourism again, you can join the Captain and Crew for a harbour cruise in her home port of Lunenburg or in one of the other ports on their annual sailing schedule. Or even more fun, you could be a Deckhand for a Day (resuming in 2022).
Photos provided by Nova Scotia Tourism.
5. How to stay warm when you’re chasing the elusive Northern Lights: On our May 26 Call on the Northern Lights, we talked about when to go, where to go and what to pack.
Thanks to April for the great tip about renting or buying clothing like parkas when you arrive from thrift shops. April also recommended that you bring at least TWO pairs of gloves, hats and wool socks.
Read more about this #1 Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience in our Northern Lights feature here.
6. The Camino Provides: On our Camino call, we were fortunate to have Marilyn from the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, (https://www.santiago.ca/) who provided many tips for women seeking to walk this ancient route. We also learned about a Camino Forum run by Ivar., and JACOTRANS, which offers baggage service along the route. For more tips look for our Camino feature coming up on July 7. (And. if you have tips to share, send them along!)
7. Protect your Feet! If you’re walking the Camino, make sure you have the right shoes! Marilyn says: “In addition to a good, well-fitting hiking shoe I suggest you bring a pair of sturdy sandals. I switched to my sandals once I settled into my accommodation for the night, other people only wore sandals and some switched during the walk. Proper footwear and care is critical. Remember you can always buy a pair along the route if worst comes to worst.” If you need good hiking boots, JW Publisher Carolyn recommends her Merrell lightweight shoes which kept her feet dry and happy last summer hiking across Ontario.
8. Comfort items on the plane: Recently, JW Editor Amanda sat down with Anne McAlpin @packitupwithanne – a travel expert and author who has been a featured guest on Oprah, The View & CNN with her travel tips to get you ready for travel’s new reality.
Anne always packs a microfiber travel towel to use as a blanket on the plane. She says: “This can also be used as a beach towel, a scarf and more! And now flying, you know, nobody is sitting next to you, and you want to make sure you’ve got a little barrier. I want to feel comfortable. I could even drape it over my head – I just feel more comfortable that way – and stay warm.”
Bonus: You can roll a microfibre towel into a little sausage and use it for lumbar support if needed. JourneyWoman’s recommended brand of microfibre travel towel? Nomadix. Their range of towels come in patterns and prints so stylish you’ll want to use them as wraps, scarves or blankets too. (You can read more of Anne’s tips here).
9. PPE on the Go: Even when the world opens up, it looks like PPE will be here to stay. Whether you’re planning to travel locally, domestically or internationally in the coming months, a little forward PPE planning can help ensure you’re never caught without the protection you need. Packing expert Anne McAlpin @packitupwithanne repurposes her toiletry kits or packing cubes for PPE. She keeps one in her car with the mesh at the front. Anne recommends her PacSafe mask for comfort. She also has handy wipes, hotel soaps, and other items in it to feel more comfortable along the way. Read more of Anne’s tips here.
11. Libraries, Literacy, and Hemingway in Cuba: At our June book club on the Caribbean, Jane C, a former librarian, suggested visiting libraries in Cuba. Jane says:
“The National Library José Martí is a 17 story tall building in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. The first three floors are open to the public, where one can do research or wander around appreciating artwork. The lowest floor is a two room circulating collection, including a children’s room. These are the only books that can be circulated, and it is well worth a stop to see.
Each province has a Municipal Library. The Municipal Library of Cienfuegos is in a beautiful marble 1879 building, originally a Lyceum. Due to funding issues, the building is not in good condition, and the collection suffers. There are over 300 public libraries in Cuba. Castro held great respect for literacy.
The Museum fir the National Literacy Campaign (Museo Nacional de la Campaña de Alfabetización), in Mariana, near Havana, documents Castro’s 1961 campaign to bring literacy to all people on the island. To do this, he sent literate young adults out to the countryside to teach reading to children and adults. The test of literacy was a handwritten letter to Castor. At the end of the year, 96% of all Cubans were “literate”.
The “Casa de las Americas” is considered the most prestigious cultural institution in Cuba, also located in Havana. Among other things it holds a rich archive of Cuba’s cultural relations with Latin America.”
Read more about Cuba in our Destinations section here.
Jane at the National Library in 2016.
12. Trying to Save Money for Future Travel? On our June 18 Community Call, JW Advisory Council member Libby Wildman joined to discuss her top tips. If you’re trying to save money for travel, she suggests women either open a separate travel low-fee account like Tangerine Bank or put the funds in a two-year breakable GIC. Don’t invest in stocks right now, as the market is volatile! Read more of Libby’s tips here. (And join one of our weekly Community Calls by signing up here! There are three time zones to choose from!)
13. Thinking about a new credit card? It’s a good time to change as this is a competitive space.
Mary recommends the Amex Platinum Delta. Libby recommends the BMO Mastercard Elite for women in Canada, which is offering a 25,000 signing bonus. (Carolyn just switched to this and had online approval in about 5 minutes!) Another popular choice is Chase Sapphire.
Both offer signing bonuses, no foreign transaction fees, travel insurance and lounge access. What do you recommend?
What is your criteria for choosing a good travel credit card? Let us know by email: [email protected].
14. Other tips to save money: Carolyn recommends reducing your cell phone coverage plan. Mary recommends using a firestick for wifi when you need it. Libby says to cut your cable down or negotiate packages with your service provider.
15. Want to make money while you’re waiting to travel? Sell unneeded items on Facebook Marketplace if you’re a member of Facebook. These might include old hangers or furniture. (Click Marketplace on your Facebook news feed, click new listing and add photos and information. Please review Facebook policies on selling items during the pandemic, and for fraud.)
Another alternative is “Offer UP and Let it Go”, recommended by Marillee, which is a newer start-up that is trying to compete with Craigslist, eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
For more Downsizing Tips, read Carolyn’s story of how she sold, auctioned and donated everything she owned to get Travelready!
16. Safety products: While we’re big believers in planning and preparation (including taking self-defence classes!), we also know there are some products that can make a difference. In our recent Women’s Safety Survey, these ones rose to the top.
For RFID products we recommend PacSafe’s Coversafe X100 RFID Blocking Security Waist Wallet and the Coversafe S25 Secret Bra Pouch.
Tips: If you have an external protection device, carry it with you in your hand, not in your backpack. Know how to use it, because if you don’t it doesn’t serve a purpose.
Head to the Safety Page of our website for more product recommendations.
17. Online Privacy and Security: Please use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you travel.
Even if you are using a password-protected Wi-Fi connection in a cafe, or in a hotel, these passwords are not recycled often enough in that anyone who has ever been in that cafe or stayed in that hotel has the ability to log into your computer while you’re using that connection and read everything on your computer.
The solution is using a VPN. Which is short for a virtual private network. Carolyn uses Nord, N, O, R, D. Nord VPN. It’s very inexpensive. It’s a couple of dollars a month. You can protect all of your devices.
And whenever you log into any kind of Wi-Fi connection anywhere other than the one in your own home that obviously is very protected then all you have to do is just click a button.
Pricing may have changed since this was reviewed. Many VPN options have annual rates which can be less.